Poppy died last night.
He had a stroke, and a few hours later he was gone.
As soon as I heard about the stroke I hysterically told Aaron we had to go. We had to be there. So we threw things in a suitcase, put our children in pajama's and got in the car.
After about an hour of driving, with 2 screaming kids, I started to wonder if this was the best idea. We wouldn't arrive in Middletown until after 4:00am. I highly doubted Olivia would fall asleep in the car. I know most kids fall asleep in the car... and Olivia does during the day, but at night she just won't. We've driven to Disneyland through the night and she wouldn't even close her eyes. And then I prayed and prayed that she would fall asleep. And then the feeling came. Turn around. Go home. Put your babies in their beds, and get a good night's sleep. You will need it. I called and talked to my mom and Nanny. They relieved me of my guilt, and agreed. Go home. Sleep. Nothing I could do there. It was a really really hard decision, despite the peace I felt.
I got the call at 2:30am that Poppy had died. We wouldn't have made it. So now we are getting ready to go.
I don't know what to say. I love that man so so so much. My earliest memories are of him. Him teaching me how to blow bubbles. How to color in the lines. How to salute the flag (before I could walk, if the stories are true). How to peel potatoes. How to pump on a swing. How to jump rope. How to tell time. How to shoot a basketball. How to cook gravy. And the best home fries ever. And the best sloppy joes. And clams. He was a good cook. He taught me how to drive (although last time we were in a car, he asked me to please not tell anyone that, if anyone asks "my grandmother taught me how to drive"). He taught me to love my country. He taught me to be selfless. He taught me charity. And hard work. And truly caring for other people (even if at times it seems like meddling... it's always because of how much you care). He taught me that true joy comes from serving others. The woman I am today, is so shaped by the man he was.
Aaron through tears last night asked me if I remember when he took us deep sea fishing. How I didn't get a single bite. And then Poppy got a bite, and he handed me his pole so I could reel it in. It sounds so silly. But I mean you sit there with a fishing pole for hours, no one getting anything, and then you finally do... and you hand your pole to your granddaughter next to you, for the only exciting part of the whole trip. And that encompasses who he was. He would rather see me enjoy it than enjoy it himself.
When I turned 12 I got my own bedroom in the basement that my dad built for me. My Poppy painted it. Truth is, I hated it. I hated the color. And the pattern. But then I laid there and realized he did it all himself. By hand. He painted a border around my room. And every time I laid there and looked at it, I thought of his hard work, and I felt so loved. And the truth is, then I loved it.
I've written about his service to the country before. He was a marine from the Korean War. From the Chosin Reservoir. If you look it up you can learn about one of the hardest battles our country ever fought, and certainly the coldest. Poppy told me stories about that war that will be with me forever. I am forever proud of him and his service. I love to tell people Semper Fi, and feel so proud to say my grandfather was a Marine.
He once brought me a picture of a tombstone. All that was written on it was "Poppy". He told me that he would love that. It is so interesting me that all this man has done in his life, that is how he would want to be remembered. "Poppy".